Preparing to Bake the Cardinal Slice in German

I have been asking my friends to recommend my next challenge, and at the the rate the suggestions are coming in, I am going to be a very busy boy.  One of the recommendations  came in from my old university friend Susanna.  They are off to Vienna for the weekend and she suggested the Cardinal Slice or Kardinalschnitte.

I have a soft spot for all things German having spent 5 years there as a youngster and a joyfully mis-spent 6 months in Berlin before starting at Bristol University. Somehow German baking has never made much of an impact in the UK which is a great shame as it is as rich a tradition as the french one, and when it comes to bread they take it to a whole new level which I am sure I will come back to another day.

So back to the Kardinalschnitte.  The first thing I discovered (surprise surprise) is that to find recipes you had to google in German.  There is a a very good US blog, Joe Pastry, and one recipe on Jamie Oliver’s website which I suspect would have a well bred Hapsburg Freiherr twitching his well groomed eye brow in disdain, though it does sound delicious.

The traditional slice is a confection of Genoise sponge, meringue, whipped cream and redcurrant or cranberry jam.  The yellow and white are the colours of the catholic church (my methodist forbears would be must disapproving!), and I am guessing the red jam is the colour of the cardinal’s robes.  There are other variations involving coffee and rum cream – which one to try is going to be a great dilemma all week.  I tend not to like coffee desserts, but I am not that keen on vast amounts of whipped cream with my cake either. So why on earth am I taking this one on? Well……

  1. It involves piping – I need to stop being frightened of that one.
  2. I have lots of egg white from the creme pat last week
  3. I haven’t done genoise sponge for a while
  4. …and at the end of the day this is being done in homage to Susanna and her husband Christopher’s trip.

The basic technique of this delight is to pipe 3 separate stripes of meringue, fill in with 2 stripes of genoise sponge, bake these together, and then use these to sandwich the jam and cream filling.  I am sure disaster awaits me this weekend. This posting however is more about the joys of trying to do recipes when they are in a foreign language.

I speak german and have a love the language’s descriptive literalness.  It has always amused me that Ascension Day in German is Christihimmelfahrtstag which  translated literally back into English means “Christ’s Heaven Journey Day”.  There are many more but unpublishable varieties along the same linguistic pattern.  I therefore ventured into the realm of German cookery websites with a certain amount of cockiness.

The first worry was that with Kardinalschnitte I was already on rocky linguistic territory as the recipes are in Austrian German with a whole set of new words to learn.  My initial pleasure at the German for certain things was there from the start of the search.  Here are a few of them.  Schneemasse (literally “Snow mass”) is better known to you and me as Meringue but I think we should adopt Snow Mass – so much more appropriate. Staubzucker means literally “Dust Sugar”, but a bit of imagination gets you to Icing Sugar pretty quickly.  I was initially flummoxed by Eiklar (egg clear), but quickly caught on.  And yet again the term is so much more accurate. After all Egg White is only white once cooked.  You do however also see Eiweiss in lots of recipes which does match our word for it.

Then we got to more difficult territory.  Spitzbeutel …hmmmm …. Pointed Bag?…. ahh of course a piping bag. Schlagobers …..Beaten Above???…… that one took a while.  It  is the Austrian/Bavarian for Whipped Cream. Dotter? …..not the foggiest.  It actually means egg yolk which is normally Eigelb (“Egg Yellow” of course) in German.

My cockiness is now beginning to wobble.  I want to do this right, I want to do the traditional Kardinalschnitte but will I jump the language barrier to achieve my goal?  Too early to give up yet.  I have all the ingredients down pat until I hit someting called “Sahnesteif” – cream stiffener. Normally when I finally get to the real English word I get to the answer, but not with this one.  I have never ever heard of adding something to whipped cream to stiffen it – surely it needs no help stiffening, as the actress  said to the bishop (what is it about the words “whipped cream” that brings out we English in a spasm of double-entendres?).

Cream stiffener I discover is one of those things that German expats on various forums wax lyrical about not being able to find outside of Germany.  Dr Oetker sells handy little packets of the stuff that this evening I have seen a series of German Hausfrau gaily tossing into their cream. I am now in both a panic and intrigued.  It turns out that it is basically Cornflour with a magic ingredient, and is used to stop the whipped cream from weeping and breaking down (unlike me in the final stages of exasperation about where on earth I will find Sahnesteif in Suffolk).

Now of course the Germans do Whipped Cream with virtually everything – a total cliche I know but they even satirise themselves about it.  Udo Jurgens (who gained a mention on Deutschland 83 this week) did an amusing song called “Aber Mit Sahne” (“But Please with Whipped Cream”) which tells the story of Mathilde, Ottilie, Marie und Liliane eating their way through every classic German cake (now there is a thought) in the Konditorei (so much more than just a Cafe), and insisting on whipped cream with every slice, until each one dies in turn leaving poor Liliane dying mid munch of Marzipancake, and finally being buried with cakes instead of wreaths on her coffin.  If you want to see Udo in his full 70’s wonder then watch this 70’s youtube delight, though if you want to see the cakes he sings about this one is also rather fun.  Enough reminiscence already – I remember my German teacher playing us this one in class.  Back to Sahnesteif.

The English for this is Whipped Cream Stabiliser but it is not an ingredient we can get here (as far as I know). The problem I gather is the fat content of supermarket cream is not high enough to be stable when whipped though I do wonder whether that applies when using double cream rather than whipped cream.  After ploughing through various German forums I finally stumbled on the definitive guide to stabilising your whipped cream on wikihow. Now this is a US site so we are now back into the joys of strange condiments (what an earth is “Vanilla Pudding mix”), and of course the joys of cups (please my lovely cousins you are no longer traveling in wagons across the continent with only a set of drinking cups to measure with  – get a set of scales!).  However there are 2 interesting tips I also saw on the german forums – melt a few big marshmallows and pour into the meringue or use some gelatine.  Answer found I can now move forward.

I have my ingredients, I have various youtube videos (in German) though I don’t think I will be trying the pink sponge version by a lovely Austro Bosnian lady called Elma, though her tips on her blog Hanuma kocht are most handy.  All that is left this week is to decide exactly which recipe to try and whether to go for the plain whipped cream and jam variety or the coffee cream variety.  Talking of Coffee, this could take me on to a whole new meandering tale about the Kaffee and Kuchen (Coffee and Cake) culture/obsession in Germany – another of that nation’s endearing qualities.  However it is late and the husband is demanding I head to my bed.  The next post will be on the deed itself.

Roll on the Kardinalschnitte challenge! I greatly doubt it will look anything like the lovely picture at the top.











2 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul Hutchinson says:

    Though not quite as gripping as The Archers I love reading your blog and your style is both engaging and entertaining. So much so that I have passed a link to my colleagues Sabina and Esen who are both keen on baking. Unfortunately Nigella has already stolen the appelation “domestic goddess” but I’m sure you could give her more than a good run for the money!


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